Thursday, October 31, 2013

NoDak 2013

Duck Hunters wear waders cause of the stories they tell.

For my Wisconsin duck hunting friends and myself, the almost-annual fall hunting trip to North Dakota really begins about ten miles down the hiway the previous year.  12 months earlier, we are already talking about “next year” and what we can do different and what we learned during this addition-no shortage of curriculum there at all.  Being from a state that really isn’t known for high volume waterfowl  traffic or emptying a lot of ammo boxes, my group of buddies look foreword to the wide open pot hole country and the opportunity to clean the cobwebs out of our 12 gauges.

All of us hail from the Wausau area originally and grew up in the woods, often at the end of the day streaking out of the doors of the high school, searching for coveys of grouse.  Back then a couple of .20 gauge shotguns and tattered bird vests in the trunk in the school parking lot was no big deal. Close friend Mike lived on Lake Wausau, so he had duck hunting in his blood and I’d tagged along with my Grandpa Schutlz bagging a few mallards and Woodies when I was a kid.  As all of us grew up, we made it a point to hit the woods and marshes together as often as we could.  That’s all well and good, but we also wanted to experience what “real” hunting was like- out west….shooting box after box of shells at endless flights of ducks and pheasants. Chatting with a Neillsville neighbor one day, I learned of a farmer in North Dakota with tons of land and reasonable rates.  Perfect opportunity. Some quick calls and consultations with the hunting buds and soon reservations were made for the following fall.  It was a good decision back then-we’ve  had good years and slow ones but never unsuccessful if one measures in number of laughs, stories and solid camaraderie.

 Prepping for the trip may start in our minds right away the preceding year, but for the dogs, it really begins in earnest during the hottest months of summer.  This year would be my 5 year old Black Lab Molly’s first out-west trip.  She’s performed well on pheasants in state, but retrieving on big cold North Dakota water through a pile of decoys could be tougher.  Several times a week, we’d  head down the road and do drills in a small lake.  She enjoyed this game immensely and even when I set a handful of decoys out off the beach, she managed to navigate though them to make the retrieves.    I felt she was ready and couldn’t wait to see her hit the water,

The guys are scattered a bit now-Mike and Moe in Wausau, Dave in Ladysmith,  Mikes son James (with a new dog Wally) near the cities and I’m in Neillsville.  With a bit of coordination we all gathered and shoehorned gear, guns and dogs into two trucks and a trailer.  I’d also be delivering a young golden retriever puppy to a new owner in ND as a favor and she was no problem during the 8 hour drive.  At one time landowner Allen’s cash crop farm was over 5000 acres, but he’d downsized now and we had to work harder to find which potholes the birds were using.  Pheasants suffered a huge downturn this past year, so we hunted those as incidentals as we jump shot marshes.  Our intent was to try goose hunting as well, and no expense was spared getting deeks bought, painted and prepped-they never left the truck box.  Crops were still standing and finding giant Canadians proved difficult.  Snow geese would tease us, but are tough to hunt.  We stuck to what we’d learned over the years-set decoys in the morning, jump shoot later, relax and catch the sun lengthening shadows late in the day.

We’ve hunted  NoDak in about every conceivable kind of weather-from unseasonably warmth to breaking ice on ponds cold.  No different this year.  We arrived at 3:30 am and caught some zzzz’s in a gas station parking lot only to find snow blanketing everything an hour later.  Typical North Dakota.  Melting snow meant soils turn to black grease and the truck stayed in four wheel drive all week.  Overcast and damp actually helped duck hunting as one would expect and we managed to get plenty of shooting opportunities the first 2 days.  Bluebird skys and temps sliding up to the 60s seem to put the kabash on our waterfowl hunt later.  We did get a few more, but they were tough to find-no cold front flights of northern birds would arrive this year.  We managed a few rooster pheasants, but the hens outnumbered them 15 to 1 if we did find them.  No matter, we still were in a beautiful place and away from work and for the dogs, it was nirvana every day.

I think we all appreciate the opportunity to make this trip and don’t take anything for granted.  We’ve learned that hunting here doesn’t have to mean pounding the fields and marshes every minute of every day like maybe we did when we were younger.  We stop more, we quit earlier and we take the time to breathe it all in.  As we sat one night this year making a point to watch the sun go down,  we all agreed that even though it takes a good deal of effort to pull this off, it’s all worth it.  An early exit by 3 of the guys for a family emergency lead to a text from Mike the following day- “We need to do more of this kind of thing….life is too short.”  I couldn’t agree more.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Faces of the Parade

Homecoming-lots of controversy of one kind or another this year-the merits or not of toilet papering, powder puff football and of course dress up days in school-are they educational?  Are we following PBIS, RTI etc?  ;)  I love that at the very least the homecoming parade skirted rain and still marched down 4th street like usual.  It's a "target rich environment" as photographers say and since I know all the kids lined up at the edge of the curb, it's even more fun to get some portraits.  The younger kids are more fun-they are still full of enthusieasm whereas the older kids see it as a half our out of class-even if it is robbing them of some Friday afternoon instructional time.  Maybe that's why they don't smile as much?  Well, either way, here are the Faces of the parade.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trey Steven

After a short week or two, I’m sure your parents can hardly remember a time when you haven’t  been with them or a part of their lives.  A feeling anyone else that who has held you can relate to for you’re a keeper. Your arrival on this planet has changed all of us. That’s a pretty amazing thought, for  someone so small and who's days are mostly spent sleeping in dreamland.  I wonder what you as a newborn dream of?  Your face smiles and frowns and sometimes gets all smushy, and I could watch you and guess for hours on end.

There was so much anticipation at your arrival-what you’d look like, if you’d be healthy, the color of your hair, eyes and your name.  Now we know all those things like we’ve  known them forever. Trey, welcome to your new world.  Your mother and father have already learned what it is to love someone so completely that it amazes them and they are just starting out. That’s not a difficult feeling to have when you’re asleep in our arms-about as peaceful as any living thing can be.  When you’re sleeping or even perhaps taking a peek with your eyes barely open, nothing else in the world matters for us-it’s a moment lost in your new life.

I don’t know what that life will have in store for you Trey-the world is pretty crazy and your place here now changes how all of us will think of it. Before you, the future ahead had been spent maybe thinking of ourselves, but now you’re here adding a new twist to it and we want it better for you.  As a grandfather, I dream of sharing things I love with you-the outdoors mostly, because that’s where  the very best things in life are as my grandfathers taught me.  Hiking, or at the least holding your small hand out on a leaf shuffling walk , fishing, hunting, pedaling a bike and shushing skis for sure.  I’m guessing like with your mom and uncle Nik, there will be some sports to watch you play and some major mileage to be put on whatever vehicle is driven to see you.

Your parents love you, but you will scare them, make them laugh and smile, make them  proud and make them cry-some of those things have happened already in your short life.  You’re a pretty amazing little guy.  Your grandparents love you very much too-I’m still trying to assess out how this grand-paw thing fits me, but so far, it’s been darn good.  We’ve “watched” the Packers, fallen asleep to a late night Badgers game,  changed your diapers and  fed you til you’re full and sleepy.  All my friends who tell me grandparenting is great, so far have been right.  I hadn’t doubted it for a second. 

If I hadn’t figured out this “Circle of Life” thing yet, your birth sure has smacked me in the head with it, much like when your mom was born.  Your dad talked about how old he’ll be when you graduate from high school-in my mind I did the arithmetic as well and figured out the same thing-ouch, but then 70 will be the next 50 in new math terms. 

I have a few more aches and pains now,  but hope to have a lot of extra time to hang out with my grandson, not so much to spoil you (maybe just a little) but to just take advantage of what life has given us.  The other day your tiny hand gripped my finger so tightly-a good sign little one, for you’ll have to hold on tight. …your G-pa can’t wait,  It’s gonna be a good ride Trey.

Life is a song-sing it.  Life is a game-play it.  Life is a challenge-meet it. Life is a dream-realize it.  Life is a sacrafice-offer it.  Life is love-enjoy it. -Sai baba